For the past 20 years I have worked to develop skills necessary to build furniture for our home. I strive to improve my artistic ability but being an engineer, I am more comfortable with a set of plans to follow and when I can make subtle changes to personalize the build. The photos below illustrate some of these builds. Most of these projects were built with plans from magazines like Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking. The coffee table/bench shown was one of the first projects built with only a plan visualized in my mind.
Since then, I have constructed a dining room table with two natural edge slabs of walnut, again, with a plan visualized in my mind. Now let me say though, that I did get help from books on furniture construction, for typical dimensions for dining tables.
This leads me to this current build, a display case. We are running out of space for new furniture but my wife managed to find a space for a new display cabinet. Most of my projects take close to a year to complete, due to my schedule. I also generally shift the construction to my living/dining room. Matter of fact, I assembled most of the new dining room table on the old dining room table which is now in the breakfast area.
I usually bring the wood for the project into the air-conditioned space prior to and during construction so that it can reach equilibrium with its future home.
On the downside, it may take a major wall deconstruction to move some of this furniture out of the house. On the upside, I have a loving wife that supports my living room shop practices! EXCEPT when my assembly practices on the dining room table interfere with her quilt layout needs.
On to part one of the build: I made several freehand sketches on paper to explore some of my ideas. I relied on some texts on furniture design to zero in on the dimensions, but decided to let the design flow as I constructed the cabinet.
Now I am going to play the old age card. I don’t have the time I’ll need to hand cut my mortise and tenons. So for this project, I decided to use loose tenon construction with dominoes. There, I’ve said it. And if it would have worked with my mental plans, I would have used pocket hole construction.
The overall dimensions of the display cabinet are 16 inches x 32 inches x 75 inches. I chose mahogany for the primary wood. Baltic plywood and poplar will be used as secondary woods. The shelves will be glass, supported on brass bars. The bottom case of the display cabinet will be enclosed with plywood panels covered in burgundy- colored leather. The leather-covered panels will be framed with brass bar stock. The back of the bottom case will be left open. Some Arts and Crafts accents will be added. More on this later. As I said, the design will be pretty fluid so this initial concept may change as the process moves forward.
The initial plan was to etch the leather panels with a laser engraving of an Arts and Crafts motif.
As you can see in the photograph of the test sample, the engraving was too dark and would not be visible in the entry hall where the cabinet would be located. So no laser engraving. As I said, the design is fluid!
To this point, the legs have been rough cut to 1 ½ inches x 1 ½ inches x 75 inches.
All the rails have been rough cut along with their associated mortises. After a dry-fit to test the joints, all the parts will be sanded to 180 grit.
In the next part of the project, I’ll show the preparation of the leather panels and the legs. I’ll also illustrate the preparation of the mounts for the shelving, and the glue-up for the cabinet top and lower shelf.
I have ordered some bar stock from my local Ace Hardware. This is a locally-run hardware store, and the people who work there are fantastic! So instead of running to the Internet for everything or going to the big box stores, I try to support this locally-run store. Besides, they have a great store cat, a red tortoiseshell tom cat who welcomes everybody at the door. It reminds me of the hardware store in the small town where I grew up, which had a store cat, and a Mr. Hubbard who would take out his glass eye and let my brother and me play with it!